Welcome to the November-December edition of the Farming for Nature Newsletter. This bimonthly publication contains news and upcoming events, offers helpful nature-friendly tips for your farm, and shares useful resources, including words of wisdom from our farmers!
Now that the long winter evenings are upon us and activity on the farm has eased off somewhat, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the year past. It’s been one of mixed fortunes for many Irish farmers due to highly unpredictable weather, market and political conditions, not to mention the pandemic that has changed all of our lives. While for many people, Covid has been a welcome opportunity to reengage with, and appreciate, the natural world, most reports on water quality, biodiversity and climate continue to paint a very negative picture. While a raft of EU initiatives – the Green Deal, Farm to fork and Biodiversity strategies, reforms of the CAP etc – strive to address these concerns, they appear high on ambition (the why?) but limited on implementation (the how?). Here at Farming For Nature however, we find ourselves inspired by the example of our eight Ambassadors who received their awards in late October. These extraordinary individuals and their families show a way forward for Irish family farming that respects our natural environment while making a decent living from the land. Little wonder that President Higgins and Minister Hackett were so fulsome in their praise for these inspiring farmers – eight more of whom we will announce in the coming months. Please support these farmers by watching their videos, buying their products and services and attending upcoming on-line and farm-level events.
The Farming for Nature initiative was established to help acknowledge and support those farmers who farm, or wish to farm, in a way that improves the natural health of our countryside. It was set up by people with a genuine interest in the wellbeing of our rural landscapes, many of whom work on a voluntary basis to build up this network and profile the good practices that are happening across the country. There are ways in which we can all get involved in this initiative, so please read on and see what you can do.
Farming For Nature Short Video
Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards
The 2020 National Farming For Nature Ambassador Awards were held at the end of October. Now in their third year, the awards recognised eight outstanding examples of how farming can have a positive impact on our biodiversity, water and climate. This year’s Ambassadors operate beef, sheep, horticultural and tillage systems and work with a range of valuable habitats including species-rich grasslands and heaths, wetlands, woodlands and hedgerows. Each one of them embodies an inspiring story around managing farmland in a way that sustains nature while producing nutritious food. We believe every farmer in Ireland will be able to relate to at least one of these farmers and admire what they have managed to achieve on their farms.
We commissioned a short (5min) film on each one of our Ambassador farms so that the public could learn more about farming for nature and also choose their favourite story. We had an outstanding response with thousands of votes cast throughout October. We would like to thank our funders, Bord Bia, for supporting these awards, and also our great friends at Irish Natural Stone in Co. Clare for donating the beautiful limestone plaques seen above.
If you haven’t seen these videos you can find them on our You Tube Channel below.
Watch Farming For Nature Ambassador Videos here
A letter from the President of Ireland
President Higgins wrote to the Farmers ahead of the awards and stressed their importance in addressing biodiversity and climate crises.
“Your efforts represent real and tangible forms of active citizenship, contributing to social betterment in so many communities across the country, taking action on crucial ecological issues in order to make a real difference” .
Thank you to the President for taking the time to write such encouraging words.
The People’s Choice Award
The winner of this year’s Public’s Choice Award as part of the Ambassador Awards was Jim Cronin from Bridgetown in East Clare. Jim has, for many years, been an inspiration to farmers far and wide and he is a great example of just how much nature you can support on a small holding whilst also having a viable family business.
Jim manages a 16-acre organic market garden farm where he has been adopting biological agriculture principles for the last 30 years while sustaining many of the traditional methods of farming. Jim’s entire farming ethos is seamlessly entwined with nature conservation. Not only does he create a habitat for pollinators and wildlife but also for all the unseen worms and micro-organisms which are fundamental to growing crops and sustaining life above ground. Jim has both a small suckler herd and two working horses that both help work the land and provide essential manure for soil fertility. Jim is both a teacher and a commercial grower of fruit and vegetables. Jim both combines the old traditions with new knowledge and methods based on sound principals as well as proves that one can make a good commercial yield from a small area without compromising nature.
Watch Jim Cronin’s Video here
‘Ask the Farmer’ is back this winter
We are delighted to announce the return of our popular ‘Ask the Farmer’ sessions this winter where a number of our amazing Ambassadors will be on-line to tell us a little more about their farm and farming system and to answer your questions about farming for nature. It is a great opportunity to learn from our Ambassadors who work with nature every day on their farms, and also to share your own ideas and experience of ‘Farming for Nature’.
These online sessions will take place weekly on Mondays between November and February (excluding the Christmas period) at 8pm and will last up to one hour. All you have to do is register for free on the relevant link below. So far we have:
- 23rd November 2020 Market gardening & nature with Jim Cronin. REGISTER here.
- 30th November 2020 Micro dairying & conservation farming with Sinead Moran. REGISTER here.
- 7th December 2020 Organic dairy farming – how it works for me with John McHugh. REGISTER here.
- 14th December 2020 Sheep, bees and woodlands with Ailbhe Gerrard. REGISTER here
Ask the Farmer Sessions
Our November Ambassador
We would like to introduce our most recent Ambassador, Patrick Frankel from Co.Cork. We are delighted to welcome Patrick to our network of Farming For Nature Ambassadors, farmers chosen in acknowledgement of their long-standing commitment and contribution to farming for nature on their land and in their community.
Patrick runs Kilbrack Organic Farm with his partner Judith and their young family. This is a 145-acre farm in Doneraile, Co. Cork. His main focus is a wide range of organic vegetables with 45 crops grown across all seasons, sold directly to consumers and also to 26 restaurants in Cork city and the surrounding areas. Patrick also has a herd of shorthorn cattle, finishing some for beef at 30-months, and a beech and oak woodland. Patrick has a deep interest in biodiversity, soil heath and sustainable food production. He grows in a walled garden combining an orchard with potatoes and a wide range of vegetables including leeks, kale, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes, French beans and salad leaves. He has 4 polytunnels that specialise in overwinter salads, and summer crops such as peppers, tomatoes and aubergines.
The diversity in produce at Kilbrack is outstanding while also enhancing the diversity in the surrounding agroecological system.
“I am amazed by what can come off relatively small piece of land. What it gives back over and over if you look after it. The market is not filled, there is so much demand for organics, there is so much opportunity here without importing. I have faith in farmers that they will adapt to our changing climate as they are in touch with elements and will react.”
Patrick and Judith are keen on educating others on market gardening with up to 50 Woofers each year coming to the farm.
Congratulations Patrick and Judith, we are so grateful for the wonderful work that you do.
Patrick Frankel Farming For Nature Ambassador November 2020 – YouTube